[UPDATED with Conviction:] Gustavo Adrian Vega, Repeat Drunken Driver Accused of Murdering Cara Alexandra Lee, Stands Trial

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UPDATE, JUNE 30, 4:58 P.M.: A jury today found second-time drunken driver Gustavo Adrian Vega guilty of murder, hit-and-run resulting in death and possession of cocaine for the Valentine's Day 2010 crash in Costa Mesa that killed 20-year-old aspiring model Cara Alexandra Lee.

Vega, 23, of Costa Mesa, could get 19 years and eight months to life in state prison at his Sept. 16 sentencing in Santa Ana.

Deputy District Attorney Jason Baez informed jurors Vega's blood alcohol was twice above the legal limit the night of the crash.

As part of his guilty plea to a 2006 drunken-driving crash, Vega
signed an acknowledgment that he could be prosecuted for murder if he killed someone while driving under the influence. A condition of his sentence was that he complete alcohol awareness courses on the dangers of drinking and driving.

UPDATE, JUNE 15, 10:14 A.M.: Well, that didn't take long.

Thirteen days after a judge declared a mistrial because two defense witnesses failed to show up to the drunken driving murder case against Gustavo Adrian Vega, opening statements are expected today in the Costa Mesa 23-year-old's second trial.

He is accused of being a convicted drunken driver who knew the dangers of climbing behind the wheel drunk before doing just that and causing a crash that killed Cara Alexandra Lee, 20, on Valentine's Day 2010.

UPDATE, JUNE 2, 8:47 A.M.: A judge Wednesday declared a mistrial in the murder case against Costa Mesa's Gustavo Adrian Vega, who is accused of being a convicted drunken driver who knew the dangers of climbing behind the wheel drunk before doing just that and causing a crash that killed Cara Alexandra Lee, 20, on Valentine's Day 2010.

Two defense witnesses failing to show up to the Santa Ana courthouse prompted the mistrial. Prosecutors will be back in court Friday to try to secure a new trial date.

ORIGINAL POST, JUNE 1, 8:02 A.M.: Costa Mesa's Gustavo Adrian Vega stands trial for murder this morning, but the 23-year-old former Orange Coast College student did not kill with a gun, knife or strangling hands, according to prosecutors.

In an infrequently used legal move, Vega is being tried for murder because he was a convicted drunken driver who knew the dangers of climbing behind the wheel drunk before doing just that and causing a crash that took the life an amazing young lady on Valentine's Day 2010.

The crash killed Cara Alexandra Lee, a 20-year-old aspiring model, college student and city of Newport Beach youth recreation leader. She also survived a battle against cancer at age 17.


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The late Cara Alexandra Lee
Shortly before 2:30 a.m. on Feb. 14, 2010, Lee was riding in a 2003 Toyota Corolla driven by Hao Nguyen, 21. They were on Flower Street heading toward Sunflower Avenue in Costa Mesa when the Corolla was hit by a white 2008 Toyota Tundra that ran a red light. Nguyen was hospitalized with minor injuries, but the force of the crash killed Lee, who was pronounced dead at the scene.

Costa Mesa police officers say the truck driver fled on foot and hid in a nearby housing complex before being captured. Later identified as Vega, he emitted a strong odor of alcohol from his breath, had bloodshot and watery eyes and performed poorly on field sobriety tests, according to police.

Vega is accused of having a blood alcohol level of .17 percent and a "usable amount of cocaine" in his pants pockets. Upon further investigation, police determined he had hit a parked car in the parking lot of a Santa Ana taqueria and knowingly fled the scene without exchanging identifying information with the driver of the other vehicle minutes before the Costa Mesa crash.

He is charged with one felony count of murder, one felony count of hit-and-run resulting in death, one felony count of possession of cocaine, and a misdemeanor hit-and-run involving another victim. If convicted, he could get up to 19 years and eight months to life in state prison. Opening statements are expected to begin at 9 this morning in Santa Ana. Vega pleaded not guilty to the charges at his arraignment.

Why murder and not, say, manslaughter? According to the Orange County District Attorney's office:

The defendant is accused of having prior knowledge that driving while under the influence of alcohol could result in the death of another person based on a prior misdemeanor driving under the influence charge, to which he pleaded guilty on Dec. 11, 2006. . . . The defendant signed an acknowledgement in his guilty plea that he could be prosecuted for murder if he killed someone while driving under the influence. He also learned about the dangers of drinking and driving in alcohol awareness courses as a condition of his sentence.
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31 comments
JESSLONG
JESSLONG

i was cara's friend..i looked up to her. she was an amazing beautiful person with great ambition and love for everyone. Gustavo knew the risks he was taking. he was already caught with one d.u.i before this occurred...Gustavo had another chance, Cara didn't. i can say i really could care less how long this man stays behind bars because no matter what he will always live with the awful thing he did..he did not just kill one person, he killed a part of ALL OF US. i agree that god does things for a reason but this one i dont know. i will never understand it. but our country has laws, and Gustavo has to follow them just as the rest of us do. he made that foolish decision to get in the car. HE MADE THAT CHOICE. it may have been an accident but we ALL have to face our consequences. for the loved ones of Gustavo..i am very sorry..i know this is hard of you too. but at least be glad he is living, breathing, and you can still see and touch him..even through the bars. but we cannot see, touch, spend one last minute with Cara. his sentencing is only temporary, him taking Cara's life is permanent and we will never EVER get her back. RIP beautiful angel...i wish i could tell you how much you impacted my life and how much i looked up to you. you were a great role model, an amazing friend, and the most genuine person i knew.

Chocolate
Chocolate

I knew Gus and he was not a evil person he was caring and lovable and would nve do anything to hurt ppl and he was very Intelligent but I know what he did wasn't very smart but he does feel remorse and he isnt just trash he's a person 2 just like cara and Cara R.I.P. with God.

Sandra87
Sandra87

RIP Carai didnt know cara, but i knew gustavo. we went to school together. he's not this devil people think he is. i do believe he should be held accountable for what happened however. and i completely understand what the guy who commented previously calling gus "poor guy", he means he 23 years old and because of his actions his life is over too. gustavo made a horrible mistake that im sure has haunted him every hour of every day since that day, something he'll have to live with for the rest of his life. you can hate him for his choices but in the end he'll have to answer to God. I THINK ALL THE PEOPLE WISHING HIM HELL AND ROTTING IN JAIL FORGET THAT ALL THAT WILL NOT BRING CARA LEE BACK. let him serve his time. Leave it in God's hands ( he has a reason for why things happen). and just say a prayer for Cara to rest in peace.

Juan1
Juan1

Vega is not guilty the only guilty in this history are the US system that's it this fucking country sucks

Joyce
Joyce

Dear beautiful Cara. What a horrible end to your young life. Justice has prevailed, and for that l am grateful.  (Brittney's grandma, Joyce)

Batwell89
Batwell89

I had talked to cara 2 hours before she was taken from us . I never got to see hug or touch her again . I will never hear her laugh or go on vacation with her again. many people are suffering and have a spot missing in there heart where this young girl should have been still to this day...

On that note, he should have years and years possibly a life time to think about what he has done .

Guest
Guest

They said the truck driver fled on foot.  You mean the donkey driver, right?

Oc_baller
Oc_baller

R.I.P. Cara Leebut im really sorry for Vega, poor guy, hes only 23, i mean who hasnt gotten drunk at that age before, he still has time to change his lfe around, hes a young guy, he doesnt deserve life in prison, put yourseelf in his place, he obviously didnt do it on purpose, it was a car ACCIDENT, he should pay the consequences but not so harsh as murder.

Dweezle.Di
Dweezle.Di

My condolences to the family of Cara Lee...

So 2 defense witnesses failed to show up and the defendant gets a mistrial? WOW, so if I am ever accused of a crime let me remember to get 2 people to be witnesses in my defense, and make sure they do not show up in court...

There MUST be some important details missing...

WOW, this article was posted at 8:47AM on June 2, and as of today there are only 6 comments? Is the lack of 30 comments screaming for blood because the victim was a 20 year old, or because she was killed in a Toyota in Costa Mesa (close to Santa Ana border) and not in an E class Mercedes Benz in Irvine or because she was not 14 years old Perhaps because the drunk driver did not look like a skin head?

One might suggest because the accident happened over a year ago? but the original article was missing such comments.

JESSICA
JESSICA

all i have to say is that he is at fault because he knew what could have happened while drinking and driving...he had been through this before and was warned...Cara was my friend and i am sorry but he needs to suffer the consequences

Bill T.
Bill T.

The case breaks my heart whether she was an "aspiring model" or not. Why is it an important enough detail to be included in the headline? If she was only planning to tutor struggling readers we could say, "whew, that was a close one, at least she wasn't going to be a model". Maybe I'm being overly harsh, I normally agree with how you present the stories Matt, but this detail really stuck in my craw.

Business
Business

Good afternoon gooniegu gu,

 

That is correct this sick drunk and drug addict shouldpay the price! He should be sentenced the death penalty because he knew about “whatare the consequences of drunk driving” He did not care so why should we careabout his life he took a life away, May this Lady rest In Peace.   

Zumzum
Zumzum

" He also learned about the dangers of drinking and driving in alcohol awareness courses as a condition of his sentence." Boy, this course really helped didn't it?

goonie gu gu
goonie gu gu

this douchebag should rot in jail for the rest of his life

OC86
OC86

Please explain this theory of yours. Why do you think he's not guilty?

OC86
OC86

Donkey driver? What does that even mean?

Daniel Anderson
Daniel Anderson

        Oc_Baller, perhaps you have never had the misfortune of losing someone close to you. I hope you never do. Cara Lee is my cousin, and she was one of the most wonderful, caring, smart and beautiful women I ever had the fortune of knowing. Our lives darkened forever the day she was taken from us by a fool man making a fools decision. And perhaps you have never seen the devastation left behind a family when a loved one is taken by a drunk driver. One man caused this; the loss of a wonderful young woman, and untold suffering and tears from family and friends.. I know you meant no malice in your comments, but I would ask you to consider those of us who will never see the one we loved so dearly again before you make comments as thoughtless as the ones you made.         Vega going to prison is not going to bring my cousin back. I am however pleased to know that he will suffer the consequence of his actions. I cannot bring myself to forgive him. Not this man who took my cousin and couldn't even have the decency to show remorse for it, or take responsibility for the awful harm he has caused. I think if you knew Cara you would not so cavalierly label this an accident and empathize with her murderer. And make no mistake, this was murder not some unfortunate accident. Vega got drunk (2 and a half times the legal limit), High (he was in possession of cocaine) and ran a red light AFTER he had already hit one vehicle that night. Finally, though this was his second D.U.I. I have little doubt that this was not only the second time he had driven drunk. This was merely the second time that he got caught.          I applaud the jury for making the right decision and finding Vega guilty of murder.

Jonassongirl777
Jonassongirl777

Really...maybe u don't know, because U were not there, but this "kid" Vega, showed NO REMORSE!!!! NONE!!Cara was a beautiful person inside and out...she is gone from this earth FOREVER!! U really should comment on something u know Nothing about!

LiLiRobb
LiLiRobb

You are an idiot. This guy knowingly got behind the wheel while drunk. This was not his first time..he signed an acknowledgement stating that he knew the dangers and could murder someone if he did it again. That was back in 2006. Change his life around?? He had time from 2006-2010 and he didn't. He deserves the MAX. She was my cousin and like Jack said..She has no time. 

Waimea1088
Waimea1088

There is no such thing as an accident.  Accidents are preventable. Vega driving drunk was preventable,  Vega colliding with the Corolla was preventable, Vega killing Cara Lee was preventable!

Jack Grimshaw
Jack Grimshaw

Okay, pal, let's spell this out for you in very simple terms so you don't get confused ...1. This "poor guy" whom you're "really sorry for" is a convicted drunk driver. That means - read slowly and carefully now - he has been convicted of drunk driving already at "only 23." Understand? Still with us?2. He gets shitfaced. Again. Doubtless, one of many times.3. He gets behind the wheel of a vehicle (doubtless one of many times) and is driving it at 2:30 a.m. (Shitfaced ... did we mention that?)4. He runs a red light (because he's ... you got it!) and smashes into a car, killing a young woman.5. That is NOT an accident. Accidents are things that happen without an apparent cause. There WAS a cause - he was (all together now) shitfaced. Hence, it's vehicular homicide.6. As for your pathetic "He still has time to ..." It's more than one can say about Cara Lee, no?

Dweezle.Di
Dweezle.Di

I agree Bill it is like the article from several weeks back, "15 year old cheerleader killed while a passenger in an e-class Mercedes" I do recall that article had a lot more "kill the slug" comments on it...

Taylor
Taylor

The vega family gone appeal And hire a better lawyer and kick's Baez ass at this time cara's family try to open a civil case agains vega's family now cara's family look's for $$$$ Dam they sucks

Amberlynn
Amberlynn

I completely agree jack! I went to school with caras sister and it breaks my heart to see her miss her like she does. and it absoultely disgusts me to reads someone trying to defend him.

Dweezle.Di
Dweezle.Di

I agree with your statement Jack except one point. You can ask any traffic safety expert, I am sure that person will tell you  "Any accident is preventable". How do I know this? when I served in the US Army at one time I was detailed to be the Unit Safety Officer. what that meant was I was given the duty of completing reports of any US Military involved in an accident on or off duty. I remember one case, a guy was sitting at a red light waiting for it to change to green. one item we had to complete was, "What could the person have done to prevent this accident" I said, Stayed at home!

Bill T.
Bill T.

Again, my previous may have been overly harsh but I also notice that the headline was edited (some time ago, in fact, and I don't assume in response to my comment).  Keep up the good work.

okb
okb

I just want to point out that Cara was an only child. She has many friends who we all consider family. Jack, you make a great point. That douche deserves to pay. Rest in peace Cara.

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